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20-22

Months of pregnancy for an elephant mother.

Elephant mother caresses her young calf with her trunk

At birth a baby elephant, called a calf, may stand three feet (one meter) tall. A calf is completely dependent upon its mother and other members of the herd. Herd mates tend to help look after calves, even if the baby belongs to another elephant.

 

 

Have You Herd?

Elephants are extremely social. They live in matriarchal herds, working together to raise babies, find food, and protect each other. With long pregnancies (lasting up to 22 months) and calves that nurse for their first few years of life, populations of these majestic icons don't increase quickly.

 

 

Close-up of elephant displaying its tusks. Authorities with seized illegal elephant tusks.

Left: An elephant displays its tusks. Right: Elephant tusks confiscated from the illegal ivory trade.

13–20

Years before an elephant is considered mature.

Tusk to Tusk

The largest land animal on Earth is ruthlessly poached for its ivory, which sells for enormous profits on an international black market. Even though their tusks are made of dentine, the same material that human teeth are made of, elephants are being slaughtered at skyrocketing rates.

Left or right?

Elephants favor one tusk over the other, much like we do with our hands.

Adult and baby elephants walk on a dried lake bed

Elephants eat all types of vegetation, from grass and fruit to leaves and bark. Every day they eat up to 330 pounds (150 kilograms) of food⁠—4 to 6 percent of their body weight⁠—and spend an average of 16 hours eating!

 

 

Massive Appetites

Habitat loss is also a problem for elephants. As more land is developed for farming and settlements, there are fewer places for elephants to forage for food. Their monumental appetites often mean they eat themselves out of house and home, literally. And when they can’t find enough food or water, they die.

Lone elephant walking on dried savanna grass

Together, we can
turn things around.

One Step at a Time

San Diego Zoo Global works with communities in Africa to relocate elephants into safer habitats, provide anti-poaching patrols, and combat the ivory trade with alternate sources of income, including conservation work.

 

 

Baby elephants walking in a group on dirt ground

On average, elephant calves gain 2 to 3 pounds (1 to 1.3 kilograms) every day during their first year!

125

Pounds of food an adult elephant typically eats every day.

Working alongside community partners, we rescue young elephants orphaned in the poaching war, hand-raise and rehabilitate them, and release them back into the wild with new herds in protected areas.

We’re also using science to study elephant movements, reproduction, and behavior to ensure these gentle giants are here for generations to come. We can’t do it without your help.

Three adult elephant marching in single file amongst African bush